UK Covid-19 variant case confirmed in New York

A case of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the UK has been identified in New York state, governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday. The Covid-19 variant was found in a man his 60s in Saratoga County who had not traveled. Three other people associated with the jewelry store where he worked have also tested positive, though it is unclear whether they have also tested positive for the variant.

Governor Cuomo told reporters on Monday that he believes the variant  is “much more widespread” than previously believed. The variant – a common development in viral history as a virus replicates through transmission – is more contagious but is not believed to be more lethal or resistant to current Covid-19 vaccine efforts. Late last month, health officials in Colorado announced the first confirmed US case of the variant in a National Guard service member deployed to a nursing home with an ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Another National Guard service member who was also serving the care centre may also be infected with the variant. Neither service members had recently travelled outside the US. At least four states and more than 30 countries have identified cases containing the variant known as B117, underscoring the urgency for rapid vaccine distribution and prevention efforts.

Governor Cuomo urged residents who visited N Fox Jewelers in Saratoga Springs between 18 December and 24 December to get tested for Covid-19. The one-time epicentre of the global crisis, which has led to the deaths of more than 38,000 people in the state, also is managing the administration of millions of vaccine doses, as the nation falls far behind its promised goal of innoculating at least 20 million people by the end of 2020.

In New York City, roughly 110,000 people have received the first of two doses of a vaccine, though that figure represents only a quarter of the vaccines that the city has received. Mayor Bill de Blasio has expects that the city will administer 400,000 doses by the end of January as 250 new vaccination sites open in the coming weeks.

The state has received roughly 900,000 vaccines and administered doses to 275,000 patients, or about 30 per cent. On Monday, Governor Cuomo threatened to fine hospitals up to £100,000 or send vaccine doses elsewhere for failing to rapidly scale vaccine administration. But he also has threatened criminal charges against healthcare systems that do not follow guidelines for vaccine eligibility, potentially triggering further complications for vaccine delivery in an already beleaguered process kneecapped by a lack of federal guidance and suitably funded infrastructure.

More than 15.4 million doses have been distributed across the US, but only 4.5 million doses have been administered, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I don’t want the vaccine in a fridge or a freezer, I want it in somebody’s arm,” Governor Cuomo said. “If you’re not performing this function, it does raise questions about the operating efficiency of the hospital.”

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